Trans oceanic solo kayaker Aleksander Doba split image
  • Trans-oceanic solo kayaker and record holder Aleksander Doba (Poland) has passed away 

  • Fiann Paul of the Ocean Rowing Society International (ORSI) speaks about his incredible records 

Aleksander Doba was the most accomplished trans-oceanic solo kayaker in the world, who continued setting records into his seventies. 

Sadly, he passed away this week while climbing Kilimanjaro. Here, Fiann Paul from the Ocean Rowing Society International remembers this most accomplished of adventurers.

During his life, Aleksander Doba entered the forefront of human-power ocean exploration. In an iconic interview with the New York Times, he mentioned a Polish word “Katorga”. 

This word meant "superhuman effort performed in the act of hard work", work that would most likely not be seen or appreciated. 

In later years, however, “Katorga” began to carry an undertone of acceptance and even ambivalent satisfaction of hard earned, often discrete contribution through an act of generativity that had not been applauded. 

"Katorga" still defines the excellent Aleksander Doba’s expeditions, though praise and celebration for his work and time on Earth is more deserved now than ever.

Robert Krawczyk image of dobas in his kayak

Aleksander Doba, a beloved grandfather, was also a highly specialized explorer. Despite graduating as an engineer after being educated at the University of Technology in Poznan, he was an adventurer at heart throughout his life. 

Aleksander delivered his peak achievements between the ages of 65 and 71. At that time he was the oldest human-powered ocean explorer to successfully perform an ocean crossing: an accolade that was achieved through an arduous battle with the North Atlantic in 2017, where he spent a month tethered on a sea anchor. 

During his three major expeditions, he spent a total of 387 days at sea. He earned several Guinness World Records titles, including four world firsts:

  • First to kayak across the Atlantic from mainland North America to mainland Europe
  • First to kayak across the Atlantic From Europe to North America
  • First to kayak across the Atlantic east to west
  • First to kayak across the Atlantic Ocean in both directions

In 2015, Aleksander became National Geographic Adventurer of the year, and received several of the highest awards and distinctions in Poland.

Aleksander had a very humorous and sophisticated tone that served as his trademark when relating to his expeditions. 

dobas standing barefoot in grass holding oar Robert Krawczyk

In the era of high-tech explorations, when everyone expects a story of perseverance and life-threatening maritime storms, Aleksander, upon arriving from an expedition, would pull a jar of homemade jam from his kayak in front of awaiting journalists, praising it as one of his expedition fuels. 

The returning explorer would elaborate on what great jams his wife is making at home.

Regardless, Aleksander raised to the status of a national icon and memorials in his honour decorate various public spaces in Poland. Sometimes, he was called an ambassador of Poland. 

On Monday 22 February this year, he was fulfilling one of his bucket-list travel goals, and at the age of 74 summited Kilimanjaro. 

On the summit, he lost consciousness, and later his heart stopped. 

Officially, heart attack is suspected to be the cause of death but the exact cause is unknown. 

"He died as an explorer in the field, fulfilling his dreams," his family said.

When he received his Guinness World Records certificates in January 2021, he sent wishes to ORS: "I wish you health in 2021".

May Aleksander Doba’s heroism be an inspiration and a wish of health to many!

First to kayak across the Atlantic Ocean in both directions dobas